Tip of the Week

With all the publicity regarding the new allergen regulations, customers with allergies are feeling more confident about eating out.  This poses both an opportunity and a threat for hospitality businesses.

Generally, the public are not aware how a restaurant/pub kitchen works so they do not naturally think about the challenges a business faces regarding potential cross contamination.  It can be very difficult, sometimes impossible, for a small kitchen producing lots of meals each day to be able to produce a 100% gluten, nut, or allergen free dish if they are using any of these ingredients in other dishes.  And of course, if a customer does have an allergy, the meal they are served must be 100% free from the food they are allergic to.

Hospitality businesses are required to have written evidence of the 14 main allergens contained in their dishes.  However, in our experience, this is extremely hard to manage effectively.  Menus change, specials are put on the menu at short notice, the dish specification may change according to the chef who is on duty that day, suppliers may substitute a different product on delivery if your normal item is out of stock, and so on… It is a minefield unless you are a group with a standard menu and standard products like McDonalds, Pizza Express, etc.

So, what is the best answer to protect your customers, your staff and your business?

It is a legal requirement to have written evidence of allergens contained in your menu. We recommend you complete an allergen matrix for your standard menu as this raises awareness in the kitchen and complies with this legal requirement. However, if you have an ever-changing menu or don’t work to dish specifications, there is potential for your allergen matrix to be inaccurate due to ingredient changes for dishes.

To ensure safe management of allergens we recommend the following procedures –

  • Train your Front of House Team, as well as your Kitchen Team, on allergen awareness
  • Front of House – Have a prominent sign (or add to your menus) – “Please let us know if you have any food allergies or intolerances”
  • Front of House – When taking an order, always ask your customers if they have any food allergies or intolerances.  Add this information to the order against the dishes the person ordered.  Waiting staff should check direct with the chef that this dish will not contain, or be contaminated with, these allergens.
  • Kitchen – ALWAYS double check all ingredients for any dishes ordered where there is a food allergy or intolerance. Remember to check sauces, stocks, etc., as a change in the brand/supplier may mean a change of ingredients.
  • Front of House – ALWAYS double check again with the chef that the meal you are taking to your customer is free from the allergen. Belt and braces, check, check and check again.

Alert

If you cannot guarantee your dishes are free from particular allergens, there is nothing wrong with saying so.  For example, if you have a small kitchen and a pizza area with lots of flour around, it is probably not possible to guarantee a gluten free meal.  Or, if you use a lot of nuts, it may not be possible to guarantee a nut free meal.

Weekly Food Fact

 

Did you know that just 1 breadcrumb can make a person suffering with a gluten intolerance or Coeliac disease ill.

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